While most people look to France to set the standard on the best fashion, anyone who has visited the country knows that French makeup is just as worth emulating. Makeup styles and trends in France are unlike anywhere else. First of all, French makeup is very high quality. Almost every French makeup brand is very invested in using only the best natural ingredients. Second, the way that French people apply makeup is very specific. There are a number of application techniques that French people have created to get a natural, subtle glow. In this article, we’ll go over some of the best kept secrets of French makeup from French beauty icons like Charlotte Gainsbourg and their favorite makeup artist François Nars. And we’ll tell you where to find the best French makeup brands and how to integrate them into your beauty routine. From cleansers to the perfect red lip, INSIDR has got you covered!
8 French makeup secrets from French Beauty icons!
1- Cleanse your face
Skincare is key! Iconic makeup artist and founder of NARS Makeup, François Nars says that “skin is 50% of makeup”. François Nars recommends never going to bed with makeup on and using a great cleanser everyday. He also created a product for nighttime skin care which rehydrates your skin over night.
Also any French woman will tell you that a great makeup look begins with amazing skin. French musician Vanessa Paradis adds that “sleep, water, and fun” are the essential ingredients for great skin. Trust the experts! The ultimate beauty goal of every French woman is to make sure that her skin is as clear and luminous as possible so that they don’t need very much makeup to look absolutely amazing.
2- Protect your skin
A good French makeup routine always starts with great sun protection. French actress and Chanel ambassador Anna Mouglalis says “I hate to expose myself and yet, I love the sun… I know how to protect my skin when it is necessary“. SPF is an essential part of your skincare, and not just during the summer months. Many French women will tell you that an SPF is necessary all year around to keep your skin protected and youthful. However, you can’t put just any sunscreen on your face. The skin on your face is more sensitive than any other skin on your body so it’s needs a more delicate sunscreen. La Roche Posay Anthelios sunblock is developed for sensitive skin and won’t clog your pores. Make sure to re-apply to your face every 80 minutes for the best protection! Alternatively, there are great moisturizers and even tinted creams with good SPF. NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer has SPF 30/PA+++ which will give a natural glow to your skin while protecting it.
3- Make sure skin and lips are always moisturized
According to French supermodel Cindy Bruna, “before starting on makeup, the most important thing is moisturizing”. Moisturizing the face is as essential as protecting it from sun exposure. Moisturizing not only creates a soft and silky base for your makeup but also helps prevent wrinkles and strengthens the skin. The same goes for your lips. A great lip balm will help protect your lips from drying out and add an extra layer of protection from the elements. French makeup tip: once your makeup is done, apply a bit of your moisturizer on top of your cheekbones and temples for an extra dewy glow.
4- Use products that target your “problem-areas”
Of course, great skincare takes more than a good moisturizer and sunscreen. The French are passionate about skincare and are dedicated to French skincare brands. Finding the right products for you means knowing your skin type and your “problem-areas”. Whether its for acne, uneven skin-tone, or delaying ageing signs, you’ll find something. Making a visit to a French pharmacy while you’re in the country is a great way to have your skin evaluated and to learn which French makeup and skincare products are best for your skin type. The best thing about it? These pharmacy brand products won’t break the bank. Check out our top 20 skincare products to buy in France to know the favorites of French women.
5- Seek for a natural finish
To many French women, the premise of wearing makeup is about highlighting natural beauty without masking the imperfections. François Nars, a pioneer of modern makeup, was the first make up artist to advocate for women’s natural beauty instead of hiding it. Following his advice, it is better to opt for a concealer and apply it only where it’s needed most. Just take beloved French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s word for it. According to her, “I use pigments to hide dark circles, redness, pimples … But I do not forget that these imperfections also reveal an emotion. What I find rather charming in a woman.” A great concealer can be used to highlight and contour the face while also correcting hyperpigmentation and under-eye bags. The NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer is the best in the market to do all this and more. Ms. Gainsbourg herself is a fan and quite frankly, so are we!
6- It’s a balancing act
When building your makeup look, it’s all about keeping it simple. Neutral colours, soft lines, and a light hand make for the perfect French makeup look. French actress Juliette Binoche says smoky eyes plus a nude lip make for the perfect evening look. Blend your favorite dark brown, black, or midnight blue shade from your eyeline outward then add a touch of highlight to the inner corner of your eye for a less-heavy look. For a different style, try French it girl Jeanne Damas’s signature french makeup: red lips, big messy brows and no eye makeup. It’s a soft yet sophisticated look that epitomizes the French makeup aesthetic.
7- Accentuate the eyes
The most traditional French makeup look is also the simplest. Most French women don’t wear eyeshadow, foundation, or bold lipstick on a daily basis. A classic French makeup look includes, a coat of mascara, a bit of concealer, and lip balm or a nude lip color. The most important thing is to accentuate the eyes. At the very least, curling the eyelashes brings attention to the eyes without using any makeup. On a night out, they simply add a bit of smudged eyeliner and highlighter for a more sexy look. Simple, clean, and sophisticated. We love what French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis has to say about this: “The detail that makes you sure of yourself? Coal black eyes.”
8- Bring attention to your lips
No guide to French makeup would be complete without discussing the iconic red lip. The French girl way to rock a red lip is to make it the center of your look. Adding just a touch of mascara or no eye makeup at all turns red lipstick into a statement. French YouTube sensation Violette Serrat’s advice when it comes to wearing a red lipstick is to wear it with messy hair and an effortless outfit like jeans and some heels to get the French look down. NARS lipsticks are a favorite among French girls. They are super moisturizing and one of the few lipsticks on the market that don’t bleed or dry out. The NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil comes in the most classic French reds like Dragon Girl, Mysterious Red, Cruella & Dolce Vita which is especially flattering on Asian skin tones. If you’re not sure which shade of red suits you best, consult a NARS makeup artist. They can also apply the lipstick on you via their free flash makeup service!
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French Makeup Secrets: 5 Must-have products
By this point in our guide, we have already stressed out just how important wearing concealer is to the French makeup routine. As for the perfect concealer, we recommend NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. It just simply delivers its promise of correcting, contouring, and highlighting the skin and face with its light-diffusing technology. No wonder it has raked in so many awards and rave reviews from make-up lovers all over. Luckily, NARS can be found across several Sephora stores in Paris. You’ll also find elaborate NARS corners at major department stores like Galeries Lafayette Haussmann where official NARS make up artists provide tips, make-up check up and also make-up sessions. For a budget-friendly alternative, we recommend the Bourjois Paris Radiance Reveal Anti-cernes concealer.
Blush is another essential part of makeup for getting color on your face! Another favorite NARS product of Chiaria Mastroianni is their best-selling and cult-favorite NARS Orgasm Blush. It’s a peachy pink with golden shimmer that definitely catches light and highlights your cheekbones. François Nars swears by applying blush on the high points of the face as well as a little under the chin for a bright, natural glow. It’s a makeup trick that made him the favorite makeup artists among supermodels like Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford in the 90s. For a cheaper alternative, we recommend L’Oreal’s Perfect Match Le Blush in shade rose santal.
3- A lightweight foundation
If you must wear foundation, pick a lightweight one that will mimic the texture and shade of your skin. The NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation, perfect for combination to oily skin, is super lightweight and blendable for an incredibly natural look. If you have dry to normal skin, we recommend NARS Sheer Glow Foundation. Both foundations work great as they don’t start to crease or look heavy at the end of the day. If you’re not quite confident about your makeup skills, don’t worry. Let the professionals handle it! NARS at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann offers a full makeup service by appointment for only €55 with a NARS certified makeup artist! For a budget-friendly alternative, try L’Oreal’s Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation. It’s ideal for more oily skin types and will stay in place all day long. Wear it over a hydrating moisturizer for a more natural finish.
A great mascara is an cornerstone of a great French makeup look. Chiaria Mastroianni recommends using only a small amount of mascara on the lashes. Clumped and heavy lashes don’t carry a lot of appeal. She loves wearing a light mascara with an pencil eyeliner which she smudges into her lash line for a cinematic look. It’s dramatic and sexy without trying too hard.
5- Red lipstick
Jeanne Damas advises applying lipstick with your fingertip for a melted-in effect. The NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in the shade Cruella is perfect for an everyday red lip. It has a super soft, rich formula that effortlessly melts into the skin. The perfect all-in-one product to finish a look is The Multiple by NARS, a multi-purpose stick to provide color, contour and highlights on cheeks, lips, eyes. The best budget alternative for lips would be Sephora’s cream lip stain in shade Always Red.
French makeup secrets: What NOT to do
Wear heavy powder foundation on a regular day
One thing you’ll never see a French woman do is wear a heavy foundation or powder. Anything that dulls or masks the natural skin is off-limits. Having a great skincare routine and sticking to it is the best way to get skin that doesn’t need makeup. Even if your skin isn’t perfect—and let’s face it, nobody’s skin is—it’s better to just wear a touch of concealer and moisturizer than to go out wearing a full coverage foundation. Whatever makeup you choose, make sure to use products that are right for your skin type. If you do so, you won’t need a lot to look your best.
Contour too much with a bronzer
Another French makeup faux-pas is being heavy-handed on contouring. This makeup technique can be hard to master at first but one should always keep in mind not to outline too much. Too much outlining can result from a poor technique and poor quality of bronzer. What we recommend is NARS Bronzing Powder in the shade of Laguna which is another one of the brand’s top-sellers. The formulation of this bronzing powder allows just the right balance between carving the face and bringing out the light on its highest points.
Apply eyeshadow using only a brush
If there’s anything we’ve learned about methodically applying eyeshadow, it’s that your fingers are great tools. While brushes are great especially for applying powder eyeshadow, you’ll have better control by using your fingertips to blend. NARS Velvet Shadow Stick is a favorite! You can simply put it on directly your eyelids and dab it with your finger. For a smoky eye effect, apply it as closely as you can to your lash line. Then, smudge with your index finger. If you’re planning on taking your look from day to night, make sure to wear a primer like NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base underneath to make sure your eyeshadow lasts.
If you’re not quite sure about which shades suit your skin tone, enjoy a free flash makeup service at NARS corner at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann and get the “perfect skin” tutorial by their official makeup artists. It’s a great way to find out which products suit you best. You’ll also learn some application techniques from professionals!
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